Ep 52: Navigating Holiday Eating with Confidence
Less than a week until Christmas! I hope you’re loving it and that you’re not too overwhelmed with all the parties and outings and shopping and errands and projects that come with this beautiful time of year.
This episode is sponsored by Nourished Planner, my very favorite planner I’ve ever used. I’m going to be talking next week about planning, goal setting, and my tips for that, and I’ll be doing a giveaway of a Nourished Planner here on the podcast. But I’m also doing a planner giveaway on Instagram right now, so you actually have two chances to win - one this week and one next week. So if you’re in the market for an amazing planner for 2019, head to my Instagram to enter the giveaway and learn more about why I love the Nourished Planner so much. You can also grab your own with my 15% off code, NUTRITIONREDEFINED in all caps. You can go to nutritionredefined.co/planner to grab that. That code gives you 15% off and $5 flat-rate shipping, but if you order this month they have free shipping through the end of December. So head to nutritionredefined.co/planner (that link will also be in the show notes and in my IG profile) to grab one, or head to Instagram @nutrition.redefined to enter the first giveaway. And stay tuned for another giveaway here on the podcast next week.
Okay. I know that this time of year can feel a little bit crazy. Today I want to talk about how to practice a confident, empowered relationship with food during the holiday season. I talked about a similar thing back in October, Episode 45 - How to Handle Holiday Treats without Losing It, and I shared 3 tips in that episode that I think may be helpful as well. So if you haven’t listened to Ep 45 yet, you can go do that after this one and hopefully get a well-rounded picture of how you want to handle your food life for the next little bit.
So this a season where we are having lots of social eating experiences, maybe, or eating foods that we don’t normally eat through the year, like the amazing dark chocolate peppermint pretzels that I’m obsessed with right now, or maybe some special food that you associate with the holidays. And that’s awesome.
I also know, from conversations with the women inside Eat Confident Collective, our group coaching program, and from messages and comments I get on Instagram, that this is a little bit stressful as well. There is concern about weight gain, overeating, feeling out of control, not knowing what the best strategy is, and lots of other things.
When I asked on Instagram stories last week what it is that you struggle with most about holiday eating, what stresses you out most about this time of year when it comes to food, I was a little bit blown away by how many of the responses focused on what other people think of your food. I was sad to learn that other people’s opinion of what you eat is really stressing out lots of you. Here are some of the responses I got:
“The variety of food! Not what my body is used to!”
“Feeling pressure to eat by family / friends.”
“Feeling obligated to eat food that is gifted to us. I just want to throw it out because we can’t eat it all.”
“Eating with the large family group, and it is usually 2 hours later than they keep saying it’s going to be.”
“The fear of my family judging when I eat treats because in their eyes I eat ‘healthy.’”
“How to be mindful with eating and not mindless/stress eating with all the events!”
“feeling judged when I say no to things that I don't want to eat.”
“I eat too many sweets and feel out of control!”
“How to add in new scary foods (which is a huge feat) while people are constantly talking about it.”
“The huge list of treats my kids want to eat because they are ‘tradition.’”
“Feeling miserable after overeating.”
“I want to be okay with comfortably eating to a point of being a little too full.”
“When I cook for dinner I eat while I cook.”
“Too many opportunities to practice! There is food everywhere!!”
So today what I want to do is answer those specific concerns and hopefully bring you some peace of mind and give you a little boost of confidence in your ability to handle this. Honestly, you’ve got this - it just might be helpful to have a few tools under your belt to feel a little more confident. So here are my tips for eating during the holidays, in direct response to what you said you were struggling with.
You get to decide what you eat. You don’t HAVE to eat anything. This is one of my favorite pieces of becoming a confident, intuitive eater - I get to eat only food I love and say no thank you to the rest.
If somebody brings you a plate of cookies or a package of cute Christmas treats, that’s great. If you get 29 plates of cookies each week in December, that’s still great. You don’t have to eat them. You can pick your favorites and either share the rest or throw it away.
I know food waste is a big deal for lots of people, and I’d love to cover that in another episode because I have lots to say about it. But I’ll just briefly sum up with this: you have permission to throw away food you won’t eat. Whether because you don’t want it, you don’t like it, you’ve had enough, or there’s too much and eating it all will no longer be pleasurable.
If you’re getting an endless stream of treats delivered to your door and it overwhelms you, simply say thank you, appreciate the gesture, eat what you want, and don’t feel one ounce of pressure from anyone else to eat it all.
Tradition is a pleasure, not an obligation. If you have traditions that you dread, guess what - I’d say that tradition has run its course and you don’t have to uphold it anymore. Christmas traditions aren’t supposed to be these heavy burdens we slog through every year. If it doesn’t bring you joy, you don’t have to do it!
There is no tradition police making sure that you do all the things you’ve ever done - bake the sugar cookies, deliver neighbor treats, slave over the stove for homemade caramels, whatever it is. I’m speaking specifically about food, but this also applies to everything else.
My friend Miranda from Live Free Creative talked on her podcast about how she’s decided not to act out the nativity scene with her family this year, because she doesn’t want to. And I think that’s awesome.
If a tradition isn’t serving you, you don’t have to do it. As the person who left this comment said, she’s specifically concerned about her kids wanting to do all these things and make all these treats because they are tradition.
I would say this would be a great conversation to have with your kids! You can lovingly explain that with the time you have available, you can make X number of Christmas treats this year. Maybe you have each of the kids pick one treat they like most. Maybe you all decide on just one thing. And you do that one thing or those few things, and you make it awesome and memorable and enjoyable, and you drop the rest.
As the one responsible for carrying out the traditions, you get to decide what ones you value most and what ones you want to eliminate - even if just temporarily.
If it’s an extraordinarily busy season, with orchestra and choir concerts and plays and church parties and service projects and angel trees and (clearly I’m speaking from experience here), then you need to take your power back and set some boundaries on your time.
Or, if you decide that you would rather be a doormat to what other people want and you want to let other people dictate what you do, that’s fine too - but own it. Decide that that’s what you’re going to do instead of feeling like a victim to Christmas traditions. So tip #2 is to keep tradition a pleasure, not an obligation.
Have your own back. If you go to a family party and they say that the meal will be at 5pm, and then you’re sitting there at 7pm starving and angry, I would recommend having your own back.
When it comes to eating, which is one of the most basic forms of self-care, it’s only your responsibility. If you know that you get panicky when you get hungry, pack a snack in your purse and eat it if you need it to tide you over.
Your food is your responsibility. You are the only one who knows when you’re hungry, and you’re the only one who knows when you’ve had enough. Don’t try to give that to someone else, because they’ll probably do a pretty miserable job. Have your own back, and plan ahead to meet your own needs.
This also applies to overeating. If you know that overeating is something that typically happens in certain situations, set an intention before you go to respect your fullness cues. Visualize the situation - visualize yourself eating and enjoying the food and recognizing when you’ve had enough and deciding that you’re ready to stop before you eat past the point of comfortable fullness. Visualize it and practice it in your mind. Then, when you get to the party, follow through on what you practiced.
Have your own back by doing what you need - by eating what you want, what you enjoy, in the amount that you want it, and then being done. Not from a mindset of “I’ve had enough calories, I’m going to look fat,” but the mindset of “I know that I can have more of this if I want it later, but right now I’m feeling ready to be done.” This is not restriction - this is intuition.
Remember that nobody else can meet your needs - whether feeding you at the right time or the right amounts. You get to call the shots when it comes to food. Have your own back.
Your food is your business. If you could understand this one thing from this episode and really take away something that changes your mindset, I hope this is it. What you eat is nobody else’s business. Not your mom, not your sister, not your friends, not your husband, not your great-aunt. Your food is your business.
Really, the only advice I have for those of you who are overly concerned about what other people think of your food is to LET IT GO. It’s clearly not serving you to worry about it.
And guess what - you worrying about other people judging you for your food choices isn’t stopping them from judging you - it’s just making you miserable.
I have quite a bit of personal experience with this, too, so I’m speaking with plenty of stories of when people judged me. As a nutritionist, I have had hundreds of comments made about my food. “I can’t believe a nutritionist is eating that! Oh, I better not eat this in front of the nutritionist!” Literally, this happens on a regular basis in my social experiences. And if I let it bother me - if I went into every social situation with anxiety over what someone will think about what I put in my mouth - I’d be a total wreck. But I don’t give away my power like that.
The only opinion about my food that matters is my OWN. So when someone makes what I may perceive to be an ignorant or rude or judgmental comment about my food, I just smile. They don’t mean any harm. They don’t have the understanding that I have about food. They’re clearly operating under lots of self-judgment and probably struggling with their own relationship with food and their own skewed paradigm of what healthy eating is, and they’re projecting that onto me. Which is only natural, and I don’t have to get angry. I just smile and let it go. It has NOTHING to do with me.
What other people think of me, or my food, or my body, or my choices, has nothing to do with me. What other people think of me is none of my business. That’s their stuff.
What other people think of you is none of YOUR business. It’s not about you. Your food is your business alone. And when someone tries to make it their business, you don’t need to stress out about it or get worried.
I think it has helped me to think through my stresses, in the past. Let’s say I was worried about being judged for either saying yes or saying no to a particular food. I would walk myself through that thought process. “Okay, Stephanie, yes, let’s say this friend might look at your plate and think, “WOW. I cannot BELIEVE she is eating that.” Let’s say that she even says something. Then what? What will that do? Will that end our relationship forever? Will I punch her in the face? Let’s say, worse case scenario, that this friend then loses all respect for me. So what?”
Usually, when I’ve used this tool in the past (in my mind I’ve always called this the ‘so what?’ tool, which hopefully doesn’t sound too flippant), I’ve never been able to come up with a good reason to continue wasting mental energy worrying about what this person would think, no matter how terrible or awkward the initial situation may be.
Ultimately, it’s a total waste of my bandwidth to worry about what someone else thinks about me, or my food. And I think you’ll find the same thing. If you find yourself worrying about what someone else will think - or even say - about your food, just gently remind yourself that your food is your business, and direct your focus to something that matters more. Like, actually enjoying the food you DO choose. Or having a great conversation at that family party instead of worrying the whole time.
Step outside of yourself and your own stresses, and try to see with a bigger perspective. Don’t waste your limited energy on things that only make you miserable.
Okay, so to sum up, my 4 tips for you this week (and always, actually - these aren’t just for the holidays!) are 1. You get to decide what you eat, 2. Tradition is a pleasure, not an obligation, 3. Have your own back, and 4. Your food is your business.
I hope these will be helpful for you as you navigate the rest of the holiday season, and that you’ll remember them even beyond that. I hope you feel a little bit more confident + empowered with food and that you’ll go out and make this holiday everything you want it to be. You’ve got this. Have a very merry Christmas, and I’ll talk to you next week!